Posted by on November 26, 2012

You Only Live Once

I hesitated to make “Yolo” the word of the week. It jumped the shark a while back and isn’t “in” anymore, but I thought it might be interesting to unpack an idea that really wasn’t new to begin with. Don’t tell the kids that, though.

Oh, in case you’re confused…”yolo” stands for “you only live once.” It became popular last year with the younger crowd (that would be 25 and under for those of us who still consider 40 to be wet behind the ears). And if you ever watched Dead Poet’s Society, you’ll take it as the carpe diem battle cry Robin Williams used to motivate the boys.

Carpe Diem

Carpe diem means “seize the day.” It was actually part of a longer phrase in a poem by Roman lyricist, Horace. It went something like this, “Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero – “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future.” And that would be about where “yolo” hit kids a few months ago. (They’re moving on to different phrases now, and “yolo” is falling to the wayside with all those other phrases that go out of style like”gag me” and “phat”.)

I always liked the “carpe diem” cry, but I mostly took it as an invitation to stop and check out the way dewdrops shimmer on a spider’s web or as an excuse to take a risk like getting highlights in my hair. Using it as a reason to ignore my bills or break someone’s heart never crossed my radar. Wasn’t it supposed to be about living life to the fullest? That’s a good thing, right?

Abundant Life

Jesus even said that he came so that we might have abundant life. I think the big hang up I have with “carpe diem” and especially “yolo” is that there’s this disregard for the future. I’ve heard a lot lately about living in the present, and why that’s important. And I get that. It’s important to not waste away looking at what could have been or sit and pine for what might some day be. We miss things that way, and before you know it, you’re grown or your kids are grown, and you’ve missed a whole bunch. But even though living in the present is important, I don’t buy for a second that this is all there is. And I don’t really believe that we only live once. It’s from this present moment on into eternity for me.

Getting Ready

A few years ago I started thinking about what things I’d want to “take into eternity” with me. (Yeah, I know we can’t take things with us, but I don’t think that when I step into heaven I’m going to magically know how to write the perfect story or listen well or be more vulnerable, if I haven’t been learning those things here. So I’ve been trying to learn stuff. Maybe that’s a selfish way of looking at heaven, or maybe it’s part of keeping that lamp trimmed and ready. Either way, it’s real to me…that this won’t be it. There is more than a mere “once”. There’s forever. 

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry…

So part of it’s true. You only live once. There will never be days like this again, so we should make the most of them. Tell the truth. Love mercy. Do justly. And walk humbly with God. But the part that’s not true seems deceptively dangerous. That whole “live while you’re young” sentiment. You know, that’s not new either. “Eat, drink and be merry…” Live it up! But before you do, it’s important to know the rest of that story. It’s in Luke 12:13-21

Make the most of your life this week. Be honest. Love well. And leave no regrets.



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